Favor Ideas for Your 1950’s Retro Theme Party (14 Examples)


I love a good theme party as much as the next person, and the 1950s is such a fun era to use.

It’s essential to have a basic understanding of what the 1950s were all about to help generate favor ideas.  We’d like to begin by touching on some of the most important or popular trends of the decade.

Great music, dances, pop culture, cute fashion, diners, cool cars, and games made up the 1950s. Your party favors need to incorporate at least one of these concepts.  People who lived through the 50s love the nostalgia and reminders of time passed, while younger party-goers will love the retro vibe. 

1950s Background

Chevy Pickup

It’s best to get an understanding of the culture and leisure activities of the decade to find 50’s-centric favor items.  What were people interested in, or what did they do for fun?

When a pop song from the 50s comes on through your radio (ahem…Airpods), it’s hard not to dance. Or when a 50’s crooner belts out a melody, you’re first instinct is to find a slow dance partner. 

Radio was used for way more than just music, however, as many people got their local/state and national news updates or even listened to their favorite sports broadcast. 

There were so many dance styles pioneered in the 1950s.  The Bop, Boogie Woogie, Bunny Hop, Jitterbug, Jive, Cha-Cha, and the Twist, just to name a few. 

The music of that era is still so recognizable and relatable – from Jazz to R&B, Doo Wop to Pop, and the birth of Rock & Roll.

You’ll see similar reactions when you put on an episode of I Love Lucy, or see a picture of Marilyn Monroe or James Dean

When you think of 1950s fashion – poodle skirts, letterman jackets, saddle shoes, bold colors, glasses, and Cuban collar shirts immediately come to mind. You may also think of the simple, but always classic, white t-shirt and jeans.  Tons of little accessories could pair with the attire from the ’50s, and we plan to highlight some below.

Outside of music, pop culture, and fashion, the ’50s are synonymous with diner’s, the local hangout spot, especially for teenagers and young adults.  Diners translate to burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  And one of the best ways to get to the diner was in a sweet car.

“Classic” cars were a huge part of the culture and something that most everyone associates with the time.  The auto industry boomed during the 50s, as Detroit automakers produced 58 million+ vehicles during the decade with the help of many luxury features that became mainstream.  We’re talking about automatic transmissions, power steering, power windows, seat belts, and air conditioning. 

It was quite common for now baby boomers to spend as much time in their car as possible, watching movies at the drive-in theatre, going on road trips, or just driving around spending quality time together.

In addition to all of this, people loved:

Vintage Television
  • To watch television – the most popular shows outside of I Love Lucy was Leave it to Beaver, the Ed Sullivan Show, Dick Van Dyke, and Cartoons. 
  • Being outside – riding bikes, having picnics, hiking, or playing sports
  • Spend time with family and friends playing all types of games – from board games like Monopoly to card games like poker and everything in between (within 1950s reason)

So, now that you know some fundamental cultural significances of the 1950s, there is no way you can let your guests leave without incorporating at least one of these components in your party favor.

What are Party Favors?

It’s time to bust out the poodle skirts, grab a chocolate malt, and put on a record for your 1950’s themed party. With any themed party, you want it remembered as an experience. It’s not just a party that people will show up at, dance, drink, and head home.

A great way to show your appreciation for your guests, but also leave them with something memorable is to provide party favors.  But, what exactly is a “Party Favor?”

You know, the “goodie bag” you remember receiving as a kid from “[Enter Name of Anyone Here] Birthday Party” – most likely a piece of candy, bouncy ball, sticky hand to throw against a wall, and other small trinkets?   

The items are memorable only because you received them over and over again.  Do you remember any of the gift items in particular?  If so, do you still physically own and cherish them today?

Favor gifts don’t have to be super memorable or long-lasting (think a beautifully crafted cupcake that you’d end up eating that night), but we feel that spending some time on this portion of your party is well worth it.

Not only will they have the memories of the whole night, but they’ll be able to bring home a swag bag filled with 1950’s mementos.  These party favors will be the perfect way to say “goodbye” to your guests.   

Really, who doesn’t love a great gift?  And seeing your guest’s reactions will be most rewarding.

For the 1950s, you may very well have guests that will remember those days and call out their fondest memories, or you may have young adults who love the 50’s as a fun, retro throwback to a time they didn’t get to experience, all the way down to young children who will love experiencing something new.

You may need to cater to some things based on the ages of your audience, but for the most part, anyone will love these gifts and appreciate the thought that went into them.

Is It Customary To Give Party Favors?

The answer is, “YES.”  We think party favors are an excellent way to enhance your party, show appreciation for your guests, and give them a constant reminder of their experience.  Gifts can do this through use (if you go the practical route) or display (as a decoration in their house or office as an example).

Party favors are provided at Theme Parties, Birthday Parties, Bridal Showers, Weddings, and all other types of events – think Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Christening, Retirement Dinners, or even Corporate Appreciation Retreats.

There are two significant downsides to providing party favors, and they are:

  1. The time it takes to think of the best favor ideas (but we have you covered here)
  2. Cost (we’ll do our best to outline the pricing of our thoughts to help with your budgeting).

We hope you elect to provide favors for your party and guests.

When Do You Give Out Your Party Favors?

Traditionally, party favors are provided to each guest as they leave your party. 

However, if your favor is a precursor to the theme or something that will take place during the party, then it may be appropriate to give your favor to each guest as soon as they arrive.

Examples will vary; however, one off the top of our head would be like if you were planning on giving away 1950s style sunglasses when your party setting is outdoors, but your guest failed to have eye protection.  Why not give it to them in advance and enhance their outfit, so long as the frame color matches their attire?

How to Display and Package Your Party Favor?

Gift Wrap Packaging

There are many ways you can display your party favors, but this will largely depend on the type of party you are throwing, the demographics of your guests, as well as the physical gift items you plan to give away.

We recommend displaying the items near the entry/exit way on a tabletop or stand with clearly marked signs (chalkboard, menu boards, pedestal, printed, or handwritten card stock labels are some of the more common). 

As far as the packaging of your favors, you’ll most likely land on one of the five following modalities:

Bag

  • Small pink/light blue or red/black checkered gift bags would be appropriate. 
  • Consider printing out a label with the name of your party and glue/tape it on the front of your bag with each person’s name.
  • In the shape or image of a jukebox ($19 for a 12 count, or $1.58/bag), vinyl record, or poodle skirt ($2.75 each)
  • A variety of pin-up models.  Notice the red and black-and-white dotted cardstock, serving as a frame to the image.  $4 per bag on Etsy is a bit steep, but if your party is small and adult-only, this is a fantastic choice.
  • Soda shop muslin bags for the kids.  $9.50 for a set of 6 ($1.58 each).

Box

  • Basic cardboard, brown box that you can spruce up with string ties and bows
  • When you want to remind people of a time when you couldn’t store thousands of songs on a tiny thing that fits in your pocket, it’s time to look at some vinyl record player memorabilia. Set of 12 for $6.50 on Etsy. 
  • Similar to the record player boxes, you could pair them with a few Jukebox ones from Amazon as well. 

Hand-wrapped in either Paper or Plastic

  • Envision the gifts under the Christmas tree, but see-through.
  • Perfect for baked goods.
  • Use twisties or bread ties, but tape might be your only option for a good seal.

Tied with Ribbon, String or Yarn

  • Burlap yarn can be used in conjunction with a hole puncher to tie a rustic bow to almost any gift.
  • Consider using tissue paper wrapped gifts for a subtle, clean finish.

Personalized using a Written Tag, Sticker, Label or Engraving

Now that we covered “Party Favors 101”, let’s get down to business.

1950s Party Favor Ideas

It can be a little overwhelming when you think of all the things you’d like to provide as gifts.

We’re all about finding things that will not only serve the theme but serve a practical purpose as well.  The last thing a host wants is for their guests to take their favor home and immediately throw it in the trash.  You might as well have given them the $5-$10-$15 cash and called it a day.

Here are a variety of ideas to get you in the right headspace for putting together the ultimate gift package.


1. Cars

For you budget-busters out there, mini replica 1950s vehicles would be the ultimate gift.  These cars are just a work of art, and having a die-cast model to display at your cubicle or bookshelf would be a constant reminder of the party.  We chose Chevy, the best selling car brand of the 1950s (beating out Ford).

1957 Chevy Bel Air – comes in a set of 4 for $17.84, or $4.46 each.

1957 Chevy Corvette – set of 4 for $18.85, or $4.72 each.

1955 Chevy StepSide Pickup Truck – set of 4 for $23.99, or roughly $6.00 each.


2. Fuzzy Dice:

“I whistled for a cab and when it came near, The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror”

– The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, aka Will Smith
Car Dice

Wanna hit the drive-in? We can take my dad’s T-bird. These fuzzy dice come in multipacks so you can hand them out in gift bags as a throwback to the great car accessory from the ’50s.  $19.59 for 12 pairs of dice, or $1.64 per pair.


3. Eyewear:

Who doesn’t love a cute pair of ruby red cat-eye sunglasses ($6.99 each) or a pair of Browline frames ($9.99 each) to complete a classic 1950’s look? Let’s be real – these styles are trendy now. It fits perfectly within the theme, but people may wear these items again when given out as part of a gift bag.

If you love the cat-eye sunglasses but wanted to get just the frames (no lenses) in a multicolor pack, you can find them here: 10 Count of 50’s Cat Style Glasses ($13.10 for a 10 count or $1.31 each).


4. Clothing Accessories:

If you were a woman in a convertible in the 1950s, you most likely were rocking a chiffon scarf ($6.99 each) to keep your hair looking fresh. Scarves are a great addition to a gift bag. Easy to pack, doesn’t take up a lot of room, and there are tons of different styles you can find.  Consider lace gloves or bright red lipstick as alternative gifts. 


5. Vinyl Record Coasters:

Who doesn’t love a party favor that is perfectly on-theme, but also useful? You can buy these in bulk, and it’s a super simple item to slide into any gift bag.  Enjoy your morning cup of joe!


6. Slinky Dog (and other popular 50s toys to consider)

When money is no object, you could go the route of providing a Slinky Dog (Or as Woody from Toy Story saga would say, “Slink”) to every guest.  The packaging alone is worth it!  $20.15 each. 

Other toys or games you may want to consider that are fun for almost any age are:

Mr. Potato Head

7. I Love Lucy Pen Set:

Another gift that they can go home and be put to use almost immediately.  Pens get lost all the time, and these colorful pens will spruce up your favor package, highlighting one of the most beloved comedians of all time, Lucille Ball. She was a staple in the 1950s but is also one of the most recognizable faces today.  $10.95 for a package of 4 or $2.74 each.


8. Lucy’s Chocolate Factory Chocolate (and Custom Candy Wrappers):

Speaking of I Love Lucy…

If you want to send your guests off with a sweet treat for their ride home, toss in a chocolate bar that Lucy and Ethel could have made themselves, at the chocolate factory. And for extra points, you can pair it with some hot cocoa for double the chocolate. But no ordinary hot cocoa. You should pair it with Vitameatavegamin Hot Cocoa. After all, part of the advertisement is for its use at parties.

“Hello friends, I’m your Vitameatavegamin Girl. Are you tired, rundown, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle: Vitameatavegamin.”

Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball)

If you’re not a fan of I Love Lucy, or it’s not for your guests, but you still want to provide a candy bar, then consider getting customized candy wrappers made with the name of your party or something memorable.  The cost is $7.99 for 12 wrappers or $0.66 each. 


9. Candy Cigarettes:

We are living far from the time when doctors would be featured on TV commercials,  recommending their favorite cigarette brand. But that doesn’t mean we can’t hand out some candy versions of those old cigarettes. (Extra points to anyone who rolls the pack up in their white t-shirt sleeve.)  $9.73 for 24 or $0.41 per pack!


10. 1950’s Retro Candy Gift Basket:

Candy Shop

This basket has 68 pieces, many of which were popular during the 1950s like hot tamales, fire balls, pumpkin seeds, candy buttons, and pixy stix.  $40 may seem like a lot, but this really could serve 20-30 guests easy. 


11. Cracker Jacks:

These were not invented in the 1950s (rather the late 1800s) but are synonymous with baseball, and the New York Yankees dynasty occurred during this era (Appeared in 8 of 10 World Series, winning the title 6 times).  $11 for a 25 count or $0.44 per box is an affordable little treat in any favor. 


12. Sock Hop Lollipops:

It has a nice ring to it!

These adorable sock hop lollipops come in a set of 10 for $16.00.  I know what you’re thinking, $1.60 for a lollipop?  Check them out on Etsy and see how well they fit the decade (dress for male/female, jukebox, classic car, milkshake), and the details and presentation are why you are paying a premium. 


13. Recipe Cards:

This may seem like a rather unusual gift.  Hear us out.  If you are a decent cook, you may get many compliments on the food from your guests.  What tends to happen next?  “Can you send me that recipe” requests where you could save yourself some time by writing these out on the retro printable designs that can slide right into any cookbook.  6 for $5.50, or $0.92 each.


14. Comic Book Cover Of Your Party:

There are a plethora of talented artists hungry for work online, and you should have no problem finding one to create a custom “Comic Book Cover” piece for you and your guests.

The cost will vary by artist and quality. Still, on average, with a well-planned concept (explain your theme, guests, send pictures, tell them about decorations and the era), you could get original Comic Book style artwork created for around $100-150, conservatively.  Fiverr or 99designs are two places you can check out.

Once you have the digital file, you can go to any local print shop or a FedEx Kinkos/Staples and get these printed in bulk, in color, and on quality cardstock.

A 100 count of comic book board and protective sleeves can be purchased online for about $15. 

Conclusion

It’d be great if you can include 2 to 4 gifts, tops, with each party favor package.  Realistically, plan to spend no less than $10 per person (packaging, labels, and the items themselves).  Of course, you could just buy one thing and scrap any type of bag/box display and call it a day.

The more you can find in bulk, the lower the final tab. 

But if you can splurge a bit more, or you’re having a smaller get-together, you can find pricier favor items that will WOW your guests.

And remember that a party like this is about the experience and the nostalgia of it all. Your guests aren’t expecting to walk out of there with an autographed picture of Marilyn Monroe and a vintage record player. The party favors are all about reminders of this time and your specific theme. 

Create your party around the things that you love the most!

So, whip up some banana splits, put an Elvis record on, and get to planning!

Mark Plevyak

Thanks for reading! Throwing events can be overwhelming but to me one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences. Since we all grew up in different decades, we can't always relate to iconic time periods of the past. There is so much to celebrate so if you are thinking of planning an event, plan a Retro one. And, if you're attending a party, ensure you relive it to the fullest. Party Unique!

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